(b)lines Ask the Experts – Anything New on 2017 Form 5500?

“Working at a large 403(b) plan sponsor, I have been spending my summer as usual thus far working with our auditors on the 2017 Form 5500 audit report for our calendar-year filing. Is there anything new that I should watch out for on the form itself?”

Stacey Bradford, Kimberly Boberg, David Levine and David Powell, with Groom Law Group, and Michael A. Webb, vice president, Retirement Plan Services, Cammack Retirement Group, answer:


Well, the Experts hope that you are still finding time to enjoy your summer, though, of course, any effort to ensure that the plan financials are complete and accurate is in time for Form 5500 reporting purposes is time well spent! As for your question, though, often there are changes to the form each year that would warrant your attention, this year, the good news is, well, there is no news!


There are only a few minor changes to the 2017 Form 5500 that apply to you plan, as follows:


  • Plan name changes—If the name of your plan has changed, you can now note it on line 4 of the Form 5500. This development is helpful since plans often change names, so it is helpful to make certain that the Department of Labor (DOL) is aware that, if a new plan name is indicated on the form, that it is the result of a name change and not due to an error in reporting.
  • Removal of confusing questions added by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that did not need to be answered—as noted in a prior Ask the Experts column, there was a bizarre situation with the 2016 Form 5500 filing where questions were included on the form by the IRS that were later retracted, and thus a response was not required. This was quite confusing as plan sponsors had to make certain that these questions were skipped and no answers were provided. Fortunately these questions were completely removed from this year’s form.
  • Form instructions updated to reference increased DOL administrative penalties for nonfilers—in early 2017, the maximum DOL administrative penalty for failure to file increased to $2,097 per day, and the 2017 Form 5500 instructions have been revised to reflect this amount. Interestingly, this amount is already outdated, as an inflation adjustment has increased the maximum DOL penalty to $2,140 per day. Note that the IRS penalty for nonfilers, which is separate and distinct from the DOL penalty, is unchanged; it is $25, per day, up to a maximum of $15,000 (note: unlike the IRS penalty, the DOL penalty is uncapped, and thus there is no maximum DOL penalty amount).
  • Authorized Service Provider Signatures—Since Authorized Service Providers that are specifically authorized by the plan sponsor to electronically submit the Form 5500 return are now permitted to sign both as a plan sponsor and Direct Filing Entity (DFE) on the form, in addition to signing as the plan administrator, the instructions have been updated to reflect this change.


Best of luck with your Form 5500 filing! It should be noted that your calendar year 2017 filing is due on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, unless extended to Monday, October 15, 2018. For a complete list of Form 5500 changes, including changes that apply to defined benefit plans, refer to this PLANSPONSOR article on the subject.



NOTE: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.


Do YOU have a question for the Experts? If so, we would love to hear from you! Simply forward your question to Rebecca.Moore@strategic-i.com with Subject: Ask the Experts, and the Experts will do their best to answer your question in a future Ask the Experts column.
Reported by
Please contact the PLANSPONSOR Reprint Manager, Michelle Judkins.